Umrah operators in Qatar have come again under fire after they were accused by people planning to go to Makkah of hiking prices ahead of Ramadan.
Muslims regularly use the sacred month to boost their religious devotion, including performing Umrah, and some operators see the rush as a lucrative opportunity for their business.
Even though the Haj (pilgrimage) and Umrah department has been fixing the Haj tariffs every year, it has so far abstained from controlling the Umrah fees, Qatari daily The Peninsula reported on Thursday.
However, several Qataris and expatriates said that the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs to intervene to curb the fee hike.
"This happens every year during Ramadan. The fee for an Umrah visa has gone up from the normal 250 Qatari riyals ($68.5) to QR500 ($137)," an expatriate said, quoted by the daily. "Some agents are charging up to QR700 ($192), despite the fact that the Saudi embassy is issuing Umrah visas free of charge," he said.
Although Qatar has several operators conducting Umrah trips, many expatriates prefer to travel to Saudi Arabia by road in their own vehicles. All they require is a visa issued by the Saudi embassy in Doha.
However, since applications for visas should be routed through the authorised agents, they tend to exploit the situation by hiking the visa fees.
According to the daily, several sub agents and intermediaries are also allegedly operating in the market by helping foreigners planning to perform Umrah to obtain a visa at an extra cost.
From / Gulf News